In Search of Ira


A month or two back, like many of you who also follow pro mountain bike racing, I read the news that Topeak/Ergon was cutting their Pro XCO team and focusing their sponsorship dollars on marathon racing. With the popularity of endurance, marathon and stage races these days and the financial and logistical stresses of having two elite teams racing all over the world, that seems like a pretty logical move (some have argued in the past that you lose a fair amount of spectator eyeballs on sponsor logos and products with marathon format races, but that’s debatable).

However logical and/or amicable the decision by Ergon was, it still meant that after seven years, two-time World Champion, 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist and consistent XCO podium finisher Irina Kalentieva was without a team. The official press release said “Ergon will continue to work with Kalentieva and remain[s] committed and grateful to her” but after that, I hadn’t read much. I needed more…

As the months went by, I started wondering just where “Ira” ended up. I did some research (meaning I Googled her name), read some articles and pored over some early 2014 results looking for her name. Other than some vague references to a supposed new Russian based team, search after search came up with nothing. It was like she vanished from the face of the mountain bike earth. I feared the worst, but did my best to put thoughts of Kalentieva doing time in a Siberian based gulag for unemployed cyclists or becoming part of Vlad’s harem of fit Russian women athletes out of my mind.


Finally, earlier this week I put my Magnum P.I. skills to the test and found some hard evidence linking Kalentieva with a team. I poked and searched around the UCI website and found that Irina Kalentieva is registered with the Russian team RusVelo (RVL). Assuming this is true I was a bit relieved, although I believe there are other teams in Europe that may have been better for her. I just hope she didn’t have a chance to pal around with trackie Valery Kaykov who was dismissed in 2013 for doping.

Still, other than that, there are no updates on when and where the 37 year old Kalentieva–who ended her season with a win at XCO World Cup #6 in Hafjell, Norway– will be racing next. Her personal website and Facebook page hasn’t been updated in months, the RusVelo website seems dedicated to covering all their road team’s action, and while her teammate Ekaterina Anoshina is in Cyprus racing the Sunshine Cup, Kalentieva is not listed in the results and I assume did not make the trip.

At this point I’m thinking we I may have to wait until the 2014 UCI XCO season kicks off in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in early April to find more about Irina, the team, her form and what she’s riding.


I guess I could have just sent an email to one of her old teammates asking if they know her team situation and plans… Nah, too simple. It was more fun to write this, poke around Russian news sites and risk  becoming one of the NSA’s most wanted. I’ll let you know if I hear anything, get detained and water boarded by the NSA in a Guantanamo Bay detention center for bike bloggers or end up in a Siberian based gulag for hack amateur journalists who insinuated that Vlad has a harem.

Oh Ira… where are you? (besides placing first in XCO World Cup #6 in Hafjell, Norway video below)

Wherever your are Ira, best of luck to you. You are more dominating than your smile and 5′ 1″ frame ever let on. Looking forward to seeing you race more in 2014.

P.S. I know he is quite strapping, shirtless and hansom but please stay away from Vlad… you’re better than that.

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